Friday, 27 December 2013

Pérez-Reverte's Pirates of the Levant

The sixth book in Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Alatriste series continues the adventures of the "Spanish musketeers". After having found themselves in a position at the end of the previous installment of the series where they deem it best to stay away from Spain for a while, Alatriste and his companions travel to Naples and take part in some very exciting sea adventures.

Unfortunately, however, Pérez-Reverte continues to write his books in the manner that I've learned to dislike. The first half of the book is yet again spent wistfully reminiscing the state of Spain and its people while dropping some inconsequential information about the political situation on the Mediterranean (inconsequential in the sense that it has very little to do with the plot of the novel). Also a new character is introduced into Alatriste's company in this section of the book. Rather than showing the readers how their relationship grows in this and future novels, the author decides to tell us that this new fellow became a good friend of theirs and only dies several years after the events described in this novel (oft repeated problem with Pérez-Reverte: he tells us when and where his heroes will die, so that we'll never really worry about their fates until that time and place arrives).

The story only picks up at around the half-way point when Alatriste et al. are finally in Naples and head off to sea. From that point onwards, the story flows quickly, with lots of action and fine characterisation and storytelling. The story ends with a very dramatic battle scene that I assume was taken from the pages of history books, but brought to life very finely indeed.

Despite the slow beginning, I'd recommend this novel to any fan of the era. I look forward to the next book in the series, which - unfortunately - is yet to be translated to any language I know.